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Atheist Ignorance of Christianity: Typical Example

Atheist Ignorance of Christianity: Typical Example December 12, 2020

Calvinists make up only some 5% of all Christians, so why do atheists so often think that Calvinist double predestination is the only accepted view in Christian theology?

“WCB” is a rather typical participant in the pathetic comboxes at anti-theist atheist Bob Seidensticker’s blog, Cross Examined. Anything goes there; any insult of Christians, the Bible, or Christianity is accepted without question. Anyone who dares to defend any of those things is immediately targeted for relentless scorn and insult. I’m banned there, of course, but nothing is stopping me from answering on my blog.

Anti-theist atheists labor under this delusion that they are experts on everything Christian: far more than lowly ignorant Christians themselves: no matter how educated or experienced in the faith. It’s not true. Generally speaking, they are extraordinarily ignorant of Christianity. This comment is an absolutely classic example. His / her words will be in blue.

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So, with Christianity we have a God that decides arbitrarily that some people will be elect and others abandoned, not elect.

Well, this is true (to the extent that it is true), only of a minority position (Calvinism) in a minority Christian group (Protestantism; over against Catholicism and Orthodoxy). That is hardly representative of all of Christianity; therefore to call it the view of “Christianity” is dishonest nonsense. But this is what people who are ignorant of a topic do: they broad brush.

According to the latest estimates, there are 1.33 billion Catholics (a little over half of all Christians), 300-400 million Protestants, and 282 million Eastern Orthodox (including Oriental Orthodox). There are 2.6 billion Christians total. Using the higher figure for Protestants, they make up only some 15% of all Christians. Calvinist / Reformed denominations (including, notably, Presbyterians) make up about 80 million of the 400 million, or 20%. Many Presbyterians today are no longer Calvinists, but we’ll let that slide.

Many Baptists are also Calvinist. If we estimate that half of them are, it’s about 50 million more Calvinists, for a total of 130 million Calvinists. But that’s still only 33% of all Protestants (and that’s a very generous or “liberal” estimate indeed; it’s probably closer to 20%, if that). Nevertheless, using these somewhat questionable figures, if a third of Protestants are Calvinists, and Protestants make up 15% of all Christians, then Calvinists are about 5% of all Christians.

Thus, we have a scenario where an ignorant atheist critic describes as “Christianity” a position held by only 5%, or 1 in 20, of all Christians. Very impressive, isn’t it? Do you think an atheist like this would put up with a position described as “atheism” that only 5% of atheists actually believe? They wouldn’t for three seconds. But as I said, when it comes to Christianity, any illogical, inaccurate idiocy goes and is welcomed and cheered on.

I’m not a Calvinist and never have been. But in honesty and charity, we must be fair to positions other than our own, and describe them accurately. The Calvinist would never say that God “arbitrarily” chooses some to save, while damning the rest. They teach that the entire human race is condemned due to the fall of man / original sin; thus, all are rightly judged. But God in His mercy spared some by His grace.

Why He does so, no Calvinist (including Calvin himself) claims to know. It’s inscrutable knowledge. But in this system of thought the damned are at least thought to be justly judged. Again, I strongly disagree (I don’t believe this is how a loving God would act or what the Bible actually teaches), but that is their actual position. In any event, it comprises no more than 5% of all Christians.

All are predestined, and not according to works.

Only Calvinists hold that all are predestined. The other 95% of Christians believe either that the elect only are predestined: and that with consideration of their merits and works and free choice (God being out of time and knowing all things, including our futures), or that no one is elect, and it is a completely free will system.

Catholics and Orthodox disagree with Protestants as to the place or works in the overall scheme of salvation (believing that the Bible teaches a system of salvation by grace, which brings about our faith, which inevitably produces works). Even Calvin and Calvinists agree that an authentic, genuine faith always produces works, too, there in the end there isn’t a lot of practical difference between the different views. Christians who actually say that good works are absolutely unnecessary in salvation (the extreme of “faith alone”), are an exceedingly tiny group called Antinomians.

God the Great Potter decides arbitrarily to hate some people and love others.

“Hate” is not normally the word Calvinists would use; they would say these people were rightly judged. The “potter” metaphor comes from Romans 9. I have written about a plausible non-Calvinist interpretation of that chapter.

Some theists tell us that evil exists because God is not a moral agent and owes us no moral obligations.

Whoever these theists are, they aren’t Christians. They are either deists or open theology / process theology adherents, which are not biblical systems or in line with historic Christian theology: in all its branches. The Bible and Christianity teach that “God is love.”

God is merciful, just, fair and compassionate unless he is not and doesn’t seem to care.

Right: in the inaccurate atheist caricatured and ludicrous equation of the 5% of Calvinists with all of Christianity . . .

Original sin, it is all Adam’s fault. And ours.

He / she saves himself / herself here with the “and ours.” Christianity teaches that all human beings fell with Adam and Eve (“in Adam all die”: 1 Corinthians 15:22: RSV).

So when we ask why God is not good, caring and does not act to show that God is any of these things, we have no right to ask why.

That is atheist nonsense, filled with false premises, not Christian reasoning. We all think God is good, and demonstrably so.

That when Christians say God if good, it is a mysterious sort of good not not like human goodness.

That’s a distortion as well. I don’t have the time nor desire to explain why, but it is (readers may trust a Christian apologist with 39 years’ experience).

And that God is not fair, just, compassionate and merciful like a normal human being means by these words. Words no longer have any meaning when it comes to the ineffable, incomprehensible God.

There are only a few mystics and other small groups of Christians who think like this, yet “WBC” is still pretending as if it is all of Christianity.

So having achieved by special pleading a total intellectual nihilism where words mean nothing any more, and God no longer really means nothing any more, is just a mere pale and sickly shadow of the once all powerful deity of yesteryear, we atheists are the nihilists?

Yes, per authentic reasoning. He / she has to engage in wholesale distortion and caricature and willful ignorance to force Christianity into the same mold.

We will let you Christians worry about if you really are the elect and saved,

Even John Calvin taught that no one (but God) could know for sure who is of the elect. So few Christians worry about this.

or ignored by this desiccated, dried up sky pixie, or arbitrarily damned by a God who doesn’t really care about any thing reasonable, rational, or meaningful.

Right. If I thought “god” was of this nature I’d certainly be an atheist, too.

There are none so blind as the arrogant, religious theology babbling windbags.

Projection if there ever was such a thing . . .

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Elsewhere, two days ago, “WCB” manifested extreme ignorance of theology again:

Election, predestination, and similar parts of Paul’s theology simply are not credible to many any more. . . . The God of Paul makes so little sense.

They are rejecting the system of double predestination, held by 5% of all Christians: Calvinists. Paul doesn’t teach it. Or,. to put it another way, 95% of all Christians who study Paul, do not believe that he teaches this system.

Why would a good God choose to give some election, and some not elect? Why does God decide arbitrarily to make some “vessels of wrath” and some “vessels of mercy”? Most Christians will never hear about any of this in church or the many apologist books that are out there . . . 

We hear about it all the time. Predestination is one of the deepest and most argued-about doctrine: even notwithstanding the fact that only 5% of Christians believe in the predestination of the damned. I have about seven books about it in my own library.

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Photo credit: geralt (9-10-16) [PixabayPixabay License]

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